January 26, 2019
7 Unique Finger Lakes Museums
By: Donafaye Zoll
History buffs will find plenty to discover in the Finger Lakes. The region boasts a fascinating history beginning with the native Iroquois tribes that originally inhabited the area. The Finger Lakes were the site of the Second Great Awakening and several Underground Railroad stops. It is also considered the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. Museums and historical sites are a great way to explore the region while also getting a glimpse into its fascinating past. Here are four unique Finger Lakes museums, all located less than 45 minutes away from the Sutherland House Victorian Bed & Breakfast.
1. Ontario County Historical Society
Ontario County Historical Society is the best local spot for learning more about the history of Western New York State. Located in a stately Georgian Revival Building on Main Street in Canandaigua, this landmark museum features many excellent education programs and historical exhibits, including an extensive collection of photographs ranging from the 1800s through the 1970s. The society is also home to many rare documents, unique historical objects, a research library, and a bookstore selling local history books. Current exhibitions focus on pioneer kitchens, Ontario County during WWI, and motometers.
2. Wonderful Life Museum
If you are a fan of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, then you absolutely must pay a visit to the Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, located about 40 minutes away. Seneca Falls has long believed itself to be the inspiration for Frank Capra’s classic film. He actually visited Seneca Falls while writing the script. Many visitors will notice striking similarities between the town in the film, including the old Seneca Falls railroad station, local houses, and the steel truss bridges. In the museum, you will find all sorts of film memorabilia, including press books, photographs, posters, and informative exhibits about the history of the film. You’ll also learn about the life of Seneca Falls resident Antonio Varacalli, who many believe inspired the character George Bailey.
3. Women’s Rights National Historical Park
Seneca Falls is considered the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. At the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, you can read the Declaration of Sentiments as presented at the first ever Women’s Rights Convention on July 19-20, 1848. You’ll follow the inspiring and little-known history of women’s fight for civil and human rights and equality as well as the movements happening around the globe today. The park spotlights the revolutionary efforts of women’s rights leaders, abolitionists, and other 19th century reformers who helped pave the way for a better future for women everywhere. In addition to the visitor center, the park includes historic homes (open seasonally) and the Wesleyan Chapel. To complete your full Women’s Rights tour of the Finger Lakes, consider paying a visit to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, the National Susan B. Anthony Museum in Rochester, and the Harriet Tubman Home in nearby Auburn.
4. Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum is an excellent example of the Federal style of architecture which was common in America during the years 1780 to 1820 as an expression of America’s newfound independence. This three-story wood frame structure was the former home of Gideon Granger and his family. Granger was named the Postmaster General under President Jefferson and continued in the position under President Madison until 1813. After resigning from office, Granger moved to Canandaigua, built the Homestead, and became heavily involved in local affairs. The Homestead’s friendly and knowledgeable docents will take you on a tour of the mansion, Victorian garden, law office, carriage museum, and agricultural barns. Carriage rides are available during select times. The Homestead also hosts a variety of events throughout the year as well as summer camps, weddings, mystery tea parties, Civil War encampments, and more.
5. The George Eastman Museum
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester is one of the world’s oldest museums dedicated entirely to photography. It is also home to one of the world’s oldest film archives. The museum’s collections consist of more than 400,000 photographic objects dating from the birth of the medium in 1839 until the present day. You’ll also find fascinating exhibitions about the history of photography as well as a truly incredible collection of silent era films and the largest corpus of original technicolor negatives, including those of Gone With the Wind and the Wizard of Oz. Scholars will love getting lost in the museum’s library and archives. The museum also hosts an impressive variety of film screenings, lectures, and workshops.
6. Sonnenberg Gardens
The Sonnenberg Gardens & State Historic Park is the perfect choice for those who prefer to be outside rather than indoors. This gorgeous 50-acre estate and public garden was originally the summer home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. Sonnenberg is one of the few Country Place Era Estates remaining in the entire United States. Located just blocks away from downtown Canandaigua, Sonnenberg is a serene oasis featuring lovely period architecture, beautiful themed gardens, a lush greenhouse, and a stunning Queen-Anne style mansion.
7. Glenn H. Curtiss Aviation Museum
For anyone interested in the history of aviation, there is simply no better place to go then the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. The museum is dedicated to the memory of pioneer aviator and early motorcycle manufacturer, Glenn Curtiss. The museum boasts a collection of 22 historic aircrafts as well as early motorcycles and automobiles.
Planning a trip to the Finger Lakes? Book a stay at the charming and historic Sutherland House Victorian Bed & Breakfast, your gateway to the Finger Lakes.